The state-owned Air India expects a surge in demand on its flights to the US and UK following a ban imposed by the authorities on carrying laptops and tablets in cabin baggage on flights from some Muslim countries. “All our flights to the US are non-stop. This ban is only for the countries in the Middle East and Gulf, and will not affect us at all,” Director Finance, Air India, Vinod S Hejmadi said. The airline says it is open to adding more flights to these countries, if there is an increase in demand following the ban. “This is positive news for us and we are watching the situation. If load and demand increases to a great extent then, yes, we will be thinking about additional flights,” said Hejmadi. The US and UK, citing terrorism concerns, have barred passengers on some international flights from mostly Muslim-majority nations, from carrying large electronic devices like cameras and laptops as cabin baggage.
“We can take it as an advantage because what is likely to happen is that passengers booked on other airlines operating from or through middle east may consider cancelling their flights going forward,” he said. Air India operates six non-stop flights to four destinations in the US, which are San Francisco, New York City, Newark, Chicago. The airline is also planning to introduce Washington DC as its fifth destination in the US in July. Air India also operates several direct services to the UK from Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad, among others.
According to the official, since Air India flies directly to the US and UK, it has an edge over the British and European carriers, which have one-stop flights from here to these destinations. Meanwhile, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said the government will have to examine the ban to understand its implication for Indian airlines. “We will have to study the ban to understand how it impacts Air India.” Indian passengers account for more than 30 per cent of the total traffic of three major Gulf carriers – Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways – to the US.